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"So, I made a dating sim", 5th Jan 2018, 8:24 AM #1
TanteiSakana
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This isn't technically a comic, but it's probably the closest a game can come to one.

For about the last year, I've been working on a game. A few days ago, I finally finished a playable demo.

You can download it here.

It's a furry dating sim. Knowledge of the furry fandom should not be necessary to enjoy it, though, and it's more story based than most dating sims. The content is suggestive but not explicit.

I was crazy and drew the graphics, made the sound effects and music, wrote the script, and programmed the engine myself. It made things go a little slow, but I think it gives the game a different feel than most visual novels.

Right now it's Windows only.

Would like to try to get it a little more attention, but I'm terrible at PR.

This is the project I asked for writing help with on here a while back, and that helped me make the script a lot better. I actually rewrote the script from scratch after that.

So ComicFury did play a part in this project :p

Screenshots

Play it, tell me what you think, et cetera :p
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5th Jan 2018, 10:35 PM #2
Red Jack

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You might have more luck moving this to the shameless promotion category of the forum.
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6th Jan 2018, 12:01 AM #3
TanteiSakana
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I thought of that, but put it here because I was pretty sure the Shameless Promotion category was only for ComicFury comics. Maybe that wasn't the right choice :(

If one of the mods wants to move the thread or something, I'd be fine with that.
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6th Jan 2018, 12:04 AM #4
GMan003
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I'm not a fan of furry stuff, but I'll give it a shot sometime this weekend. Are you looking for serious critiques or just advertizing?
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6th Jan 2018, 12:07 AM #5
ChristianRepass
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What program did you use?
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6th Jan 2018, 12:13 AM #6
Calisa
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That’s super cool!!! I love projects that are made like that. One day I’m planning to make some mobile games but I’m gonna use Unity because there’s no way I could write my own engine. I’m not really into furry stuff and I’m on a Mac anyway, but just wanted to celebrate your achievement with you! :D Super awesome job <3
6th Jan 2018, 9:04 AM #7
TanteiSakana
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GMan003:I'm not a fan of furry stuff, but I'll give it a shot sometime this weekend. Are you looking for serious critiques or just advertizing?

If you feel like it, serious critique would be great.

ChristianRepass:What program did you use?

BlitzMax.

I wouldn't recommend it, though. I'm planning to port all the code to something else if I continue the game.

Not sure what yet, though.

Calisa:That’s super cool!!! I love projects that are made like that. One day I’m planning to make some mobile games but I’m gonna use Unity because there’s no way I could write my own engine. I’m not really into furry stuff and I’m on a Mac anyway, but just wanted to celebrate your achievement with you! :D Super awesome job <3

Thanks!

Using an established engine, like Unity, is the more sensible option in most cases, and I won't always roll my own. (Probably.)

But for this game in particular, I had a lot of specific reasons I wanted to go custom, and ended up really enjoying the level of control it gave me.

For people not on Windows, I imagine the game will run fine in Wine, but haven't had a chance to test that yet. I understand if people don't want to go that level of trouble, though.
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6th Jan 2018, 8:36 PM #8
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May I recommend Ren'Py? It's actively supported and compatible with every major OS, but the major draw is that it scales to basically any level of complexity:

define x = Character("Xenocartographer", who_color="#922c4d")
define t = Character("TanteiSakana", who_color="#0022dd")

x "You should use Ren'Py!"
t "What is it?"
x "Amazing!"


is a minimal example, buuuuut you can also go crazy with stat systems, expand or replace the UI, or anything else you can think of (and code in Python).



As for the game itself, furry stuff isn't exactly my cup of tea (that would be the cup of tea I'm currently drinking), but finishing anything this large is a major accomplishment (speaking as a developer here!), so congrats!
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9th Jan 2018, 1:53 AM #9
TanteiSakana
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Xenocartographer:May I recommend Ren'Py? It's actively supported and compatible with every major OS, but the major draw is that it scales to basically any level of complexity:

I've heard of and used Ren'Py for other projects.

I'm not… fond of the thing.

I may give it another shot for another project. But not this one.

In case I change my mind, though, my engine can transpile to Ren'Py scripts.

Xenocartographer:As for the game itself, furry stuff isn't exactly my cup of tea (that would be the cup of tea I'm currently drinking), but finishing anything this large is a major accomplishment (speaking as a developer here!), so congrats!

I'd like for at least some people that usually don't go for furry stuff to give it a shot :(

It's probably more like my other comics on here than anything else.
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11th Jan 2018, 1:45 AM #10
GMan003
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Okay, so I finally got around to playing it. Wednesday counts as the weekend, right?

Stuff I liked:
Production values are high. Doing everything as "events" - and a lot of them - makes it feel a lot more professional than most dating sims I've played, including some released commercially.

Lots of incidental music + SFX is nice. Most games in the genre underuse sound.

Writing was pretty good - I have some quibbles but overall I liked it.

Contained no Seriously Weird Shit. I don't think I need to go into too much detail - I think everyone will admit furry stuff, even purportedly non-explicit stuff, has a tendency to spring some pretty out-there kinks on the unsuspecting viewer. Most doesn't but it's common enough that I worry about it whenever I check out some furry works.


Improvement suggestions:
The full game will need a save system. The demo has no meaningful choices so it's not a problem but the full game will need it. Just make sure that's on your radar.

Some way to distinguish internal and external dialog would be nice - I had to back up sometimes to check if something had "actually" been said, or just thought. Maybe change the background color of the textbox?

Skip mode should skip, or at least shorten, scripted pauses. When I replayed to see the other dialog choices, it felt like half my time was spent waiting for silences to pass.


Other thoughts:
The writing is good but it feels like there's a LOT of it. Especially early on, when the player isn't invested yet, it risks being too slow to keep interest. There's also a fair bit of what feels like real-world social commentary, which always tends to come across as lecturing, especially when it comes at the very start of the story.

You're going to be adding actual choices, right? There were only like three branch points and all they really did was skip over some dialog. This is more of a tech demo so I'm not concerned the gameplay isn't really there yet, but if the whole game is going to be linear like this, I don't think it'll be much fun.


Unsolicited game-dev advice:
Switching from all-CG to the more traditional background+portrait, in exchange for getting future updates out the door faster, would be a good trade (you can always go back and draw event-style graphics for everything, since it actually is nice to have). What I think you should focus on right now is making a "vertical slice" - getting all the game elements built, so you can start iterating. For a normal game, the vertical slice is a single complete level, with a representative set of enemies and items (depending on the game) and all the mechanics that form the core of the game. I'm not sure what the convention is for dating sims, but getting a single character's complete route seems like a good target for "this is a good proof-of-concept for what the entire game will be".


Overall, my impressions are positive. This is a good start, and I'm interested enough to play the next version to see what it adds.
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11th Jan 2018, 1:55 AM #11
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TanteiSakana:I thought of that, but put it here because I was pretty sure the Shameless Promotion category was only for ComicFury comics. Maybe that wasn't the right choice :(

If one of the mods wants to move the thread or something, I'd be fine with that.


Moved. Shameless ads isn't exclusively comics!
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13th Jan 2018, 8:55 AM #12
TanteiSakana
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Hope this isn't too long :(

Nama:Moved. Shameless ads isn't exclusively comics!

Okay. Might want to tweak this rule, then:

5. Only advertise on site content here. Any other links such as social media links may be displayed in your signature or about me.

"On site content" is what made me think only comics hosted on ComicFury were welcome in this section.

GMan003:Lots of incidental music + SFX is nice. Most games in the genre underuse sound.

Thanks. Considering sound design isn't my forte, that's pretty encouraging to hear :p

GMan003:Contained no Seriously Weird Shit.

Can you think of a way for me to advertise that there's no "weird shit" and have people believe it? Because that turning people away is probably this game's main obstacle to any kind of success.

I'm not sure how to classify the content of this game myself, to be honest—I feel it's quite fanservicey, and the characters talk pretty openly about sex and relationships. But it's largely hinted at, and nothing is shown.

GMan003:Some way to distinguish internal and external dialog would be nice [...] Maybe change the background color of the textbox?

Will think about this. I wanted to keep the text display as simple as possible, for the retro aesthetic, but if it confuses people, that's more important.

GMan003:Skip mode should skip, or at least shorten, scripted pauses.

Mashing enter won't skip scripted pauses, but holding down control should. The code for scripted pauses is literally something like "if not skipping then start_scripted_pause()". (Although, because of that, it won't skip a pause currently in progress, which might be a little counterintuitive?)

I actually recorded myself going through the whole game in skip mode. If skipping doesn't look like that video, it's a bug :(

GMan003:The writing is good but it feels like there's a LOT of it.

I tweak my writing a lot, so it's possible future drafts will be better at this. If you can name some specific parts that felt dull, that would help.

The game taking place in an alternate universe impacts a lot of this. It is a bit difficult to include the amount of exposition I need to gracefully, and that's probably where the awkward scenes come from.

GMan003:You're going to be adding actual choices, right?

How to approach interactivity is something I have struggled with a bit.

I'm thinking the choices in the demo would mostly cause consequences later. And immediately after the demo ends, the game starts branching out in pretty drastically different directions depending on which character you go after. So as it is currently, it'd probably be fairly linear, but not quite as bad as the demo implies.

Placing choices does feel a little arbitrary to me, though, so I am considering making it work more like a visual novel adventure game hybrid, like Phoenix Wright, since I play those types of games more, and are more familiar with them.

That could potentially help the script density a bit as well, by giving me a more graceful way to include optional worldbuilding segments than choices to skip text.

GMan003:Switching from all-CG to the more traditional background+portrait, in exchange for getting future updates out the door faster, would be a good trade

The CG style impacts how I approach writing enough I probably wouldn't do this in particular. The fact that I'm blocking out where the characters are physically standing and how they're interacting, like a comic instead of a normal visual novel, impacts the storytelling a lot.

If people are willing to tolerate some more roughly drawn CGs that I'd touch up later, I could iterate more quickly like that, though.

GMan003:What I think you should focus on right now is making a "vertical slice" [...] getting a single character's complete route seems like a good target for "this is a good proof-of-concept for what the entire game will be".

I'll consider developing each route separately, instead of doing chunks of each simultaneously, as I am currently.

GMan003:Overall, my impressions are positive. This is a good start, and I'm interested enough to play the next version to see what it adds.

Thanks!

I will likely bump this thread if/when it gets updated.
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14th Jan 2018, 3:30 PM #13
GMan003
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TanteiSakana:Can you think of a way for me to advertise that there's no "weird shit" and have people believe it? Because that turning people away is probably this game's main obstacle to any kind of success.

I'm not sure how to classify the content of this game myself, to be honest—I feel it's quite fanservicey, and the characters talk pretty openly about sex and relationships. But it's largely hinted at, and nothing is shown.


That's a tricky problem. If it were outright porn, there's a simple (but imperfect) solution - list what weird shit is present. For example, if you have "contains themes of exhibitionism and light bondage", everyone will conclude "clearly, this game doesn't have anything weirder than that, so it should be safe".

How to say "this is furry, but not furry porn, but still kinda sexy"? I have no idea.


TanteiSakana:Will think about this. I wanted to keep the text display as simple as possible, for the retro aesthetic, but if it confuses people, that's more important.


Consider the following: give each character their own textbox background color, with a lighter shade of that color used for internal dialog. The colors could be based on the 16-color CGA palette, for a retro-ish feature.

That's obviously not the only way to do it, just one idea of what could be done to make it more readable without sacrificing the retro-ish aesthetic.


TanteiSakana:How to approach interactivity is something I have struggled with a bit.

I'm thinking the choices in the demo would mostly cause consequences later. And immediately after the demo ends, the game starts branching out in pretty drastically different directions depending on which character you go after. So as it is currently, it'd probably be fairly linear, but not quite as bad as the demo implies.

Placing choices does feel a little arbitrary to me, though, so I am considering making it work more like a visual novel adventure game hybrid, like Phoenix Wright, since I play those types of games more, and are more familiar with them.

That could potentially help the script density a bit as well, by giving me a more graceful way to include optional worldbuilding segments than choices to skip text.


Couple thoughts:

1: Choices need to feel like choices. Nothing I saw in that demo felt like it could possibly have an effect on any branching or reputation stat. Having non-meaningful choices is pretty much necessary but you'll drive people crazy if you block off an entire late-game story path because you played along with a joke at the start of the game.

2: There's a decent body of literature on designing choices for a text adventure, but there's basically a few archetypes. Some people are crazy enough to have every single option of every single choice create a new branch. Some, especially dating sims, like to use hidden reputation stats - you need X points with character Y to get their good ending, the "good" outcome for each event gives you one point with them and there's X+n events. My own preference is for scene-level branching - each "scene" has a limited number of outcomes, but within the scene, there are multiple paths to get to each outcome; this limits overall complexity to something that can actually be made and played, but gives a better illusion of choice.
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19th Jan 2018, 2:19 AM #14
TanteiSakana
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GMan003:How to say "this is furry, but not furry porn, but still kinda sexy"? I have no idea.

Well, I tried to, with the little disclaimer on the itch.io page, but it is difficult. I'll probably have to rely mostly on word-of-mouth for that :\

I imagine it being so difficult to describe the content of the game means I'm either inventing a new market, or have put myself in marketing hell :p

GMan003:Consider the following: give each character their own textbox background color, with a lighter shade of that color used for internal dialog. The colors could be based on the 16-color CGA palette, for a retro-ish feature.

I'll consider this. Other VNs have many ways of handling this problem, and there's a few subtle options I like.

GMan003:Couple thoughts:

1: Choices need to feel like choices. Nothing I saw in that demo felt like it could possibly have an effect on any branching or reputation stat. [...]

2: There's a decent body of literature on designing choices for a text adventure, but there's basically a few archetypes. [...]

So far, I've been thinking about the choices more in terms of how in-character the responses are than how they feel as gameplay. I'll try to consider gameplay little more. And, I must admit, thinking about interaction models other than choice menus is tempting.

Might read up on some interactive fiction blogs or something. Those people have been doing this forever :p

It'll probably be easier to evaluate this when more of the game's developed. The demo's a bit of an awkward length to see how the choices are going to work, and I haven't written many consequences to the choices yet.

Anyway, thanks for the feedback. It's given me a few ideas :p
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